It’s been nearly a month since Friday the 13th: The Game released, and the game is still a buggy mess that I can’t stop playing.
Developed by IllFonic and published by GunMedia, Friday the 13th: The Game is an asymmetrical multiplayer game where one player tries to eviscerate everyone as Jason and up to seven other players play counselors attempting to not be eviscerated by Jason. Players are dropped in one of three somewhat procedurally-generated maps from the first three movies: Crystal Lake from Part 1, Packanack Lodge from Part 2, and Higgins Haven from Part 3. Each map is filled with cabins and buildings for counselors to search, with the end goal of either finding crucial components to fix vehicles/phone lines and escape, or avoiding Jason for the entire length of the 20 minute match. Players also have the ability to kill Jason, but successfully pulling that off in a match is about as likely as a McGregor win against Mayweather …. or a Rockstar game coming out without a delay.
Counselors all have different stats that affect how they play, like Jenny’s 10 in Composure, AJ’s 10 in Stealth, and Kenny’s 10 in Flannel. In addition, Perks can be unlocked with CP that can further enhance your characters, such as My Dad’s a Cop, which decreases the amount of time it takes cops to spawn if your character is the one to call them. This carries over to the 6.5 different Jasons available (NES Jason is just a reskin of Jason III but his 8-bit stalking music owns my soul). All of the Jasons have different strengths and weaknesses and play very differently. The RNG of the map makeup and item spawning also keeps the game feeling fresh; you never know where, or if, you’ll find that pocket knife that will keep you alive when Jason catches you out in the open, or how far you’ll have to run across the map with the phone circuit in order to call the cops. These minor RPG elements are unexpected in a game based on a property like this, and they make the game more dynamic than it would appear at first glance.
Every corner of the game trumpets the reverence the developers clearly have for the franchise. Each Jason is a meticulous recreation of their movie counterparts, from the bullet holes in the chest of Jason VI to the weird patchy hair on Jason IX’s head. The faces of each Jason, concealed beneath a hockey mask, (or potato sack,) for 99% of the matches, are identical to their individual movie counterparts. The maps reflect this same level of attention, from the house and barn in Higgins Haven to the lodge in Packanack. As a huge horror fan, this eye for detail truly fills me with joy, and it’s even more impressive considering this is a small game funded on Kickstarter and made by a small team.
Having said all that, no matter the size of the team or the source/amount of funding, the game suffers from a forest for the trees problem. While the game’s aesthetics are brilliant, most of the nuts and bolts behind the scenes of the game are wildly inconsistent. Counselors are using glitches to teleport onto roofs and under bridges where Jason can’t reach them. The Xbox One version of the game is a disjointed nightmare of disconnections, and even a serious memory leak. The PS4 version, which is the version I’m playing, was plagued by borked servers and vicious wait times to enter matches, but these issues have been fixed for the most part at this point. Even more disappointingly, the lobbies are plagued with counselors murdering other counselors and, in even more severe mood-breaking instances, counselors and Jasons working together to kill the other counselors. It’s hard to feel anything other than pissed when another counselor is teabagging you after shooting you and Jason is spinning in circles nearby.
This game has been a slog for its first month, but the most important question for any game, ultimately, is whether it’s fun to play. The answer, even with all the aforementioned problems, is a resounding yes, in my honest opinion. While the server issues were a nuisance at launch and trolls can sour any experience, the feeling of tension and helplessness when playing as a counselor is exhilarating. Playing cat-and-mouse with a good Jason player when no other counselors are alive is incredible, and actually surviving those encounters with your whole team watching can certainly elicit some cheers. On the flip side, the feeling of empowerment when you’re lumbering around the map as Jason is awesome, and blowing up counselors’ escape plans at the last second is like nothing else.
At this point, it’s a nightmare reviewing games, especially ambitious games like this. Developers are trying to get games out timely so they can begin to see returns for their efforts, but a lot of the games are shipping with serious technical problems like the ones mentioned previously. In this age of instant gratification, day one customers are coming away infuriated and disappointed, and sometimes that’s enough to serve as the death knell for new games. However, this isn’t 1999, and games released in a messy, seemingly unfinished state can eventually be considered great or exceptional after they’ve been out in the wild and developers have a chance to clean them up. Destiny and Rainbow Six: Siege are the best examples, and Friday the 13th seems to be another in that lineage.
Being a horror fan, and especially a fan of Jason Voorhees, made me want to like this game, and I was willing to give it a bit more time to breathe than other reviewers and casual players. With the kinks mostly ironed out (on PS4 at least), Friday the 13th has become an incredibly fun and rewarding multiplayer game, and a tense but exciting horror game. All I can say is this: when are we getting Jason X?!
You can find a copy of the game below from Amazon!
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